Stupid dice. Evil dice. Or even, as I once referred to them, “Stupid, evil, B%#€ard, rotten dice! I will f¥˚^ing smash your #€¥$∆+ ?]¥€€=^%%¥ with a ¬$¥%ing hammer, you €$¥#^s!!!”. We’ve all done it. When we’ve rolled double sixes when taking a leadership test, or snake eyes when rolling our armour saves. In fact, on one (regrettably) memorable occasion, I managed to roll five ones out of five when trying to save my terminators from mere shuriken catapults. I can’t even type the censored version of what I shouted at those malevolent cubes of evil on that occasion – there aren’t enough substitute characters on this computer to convey they visceral, gushing loathing and hatred that vomited forth from my face on that occasion.
That’s the odd thing though. I am one of the most mild-mannered of gamers to have ever taken to the battlefield. What’s more, I class myself as a rational human being, and yet, dice have swelled my face red with rage and provoked some far more colourful bouts of language that would make a sailor blush. So what is it that makes dice so despicable? Why do we react to it? And what can we do to help ourselves.
Many moons ago, I used to play poker on a regular basis. I got relatively good by the standards of the pub league that I frequented and even made a decent bit of cash from it. But I always laughed a little when I’d see people reading books on the subject. There is something in understanding the likelihood of cards showing up on the flop, the turn or the river, and the psychological aspect of pushing your opponents to help you win. And, as in many areas, aping the successful can be a good way to find success yourself. But that being said, the thing that will help you best in any game that is ultimately ruled by luck, is luck itself. Call it chance, fate, divine intervention or whatever else, you can know as much as you can, but it’s never fully in your hands. I always said that I’d rather be a lucky a player than a good player, though it was helpful that I was both.
I used to always pay to see the flop when I was holding 7-2 off-suit. Statistically, this is the worst hand in poker, but when chance is involved, statistics ultimately mean nothing. The amount of times I would see a pair of sevens or twos appear on the board was almost uncanny. It reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s adage that if the odds are exactly 1,000,000 to 1, it’s guaranteed to happen. The other reason I’d do it was, I’ll admit, a bit troll-like. When I flipped over my three of a kind or full house to the guy who went into it with a pair of aces, you could almost see his blood boil. I’ve even had people screaming at me “You can’t go in on 7-2!!” as if there was a rule that stated that.
The reason I bring this up is that it’s another example of us, as humans, not being able to cope with the idea that we are not in control of every aspect of the universe and our lives. We have a very tricky time dealing with this. It’s one of the reasons why we have religions, and the sole reason why we have superstitions in general. All those lucky rabbits feet, four-leaf clovers and general ladder avoidance. It actually angers us if can’t influence the outcome of luck and reacting to it reveals our fear that we ultimately don’t have control. We are subject either to chaos or the will of something greater than us – whatever you believe in.
It’s why we curse these objects that lack consciousness as if they can actually understand us. Who hasn’t imagined that dot or depression on the one side of a die glaring up at one, taunting and mocking the idea that one’s tactical abilities were in any way a match for the universe. …just me? Well, we’ve all had that in the broadest sense, I’m sure. Dice drive us mad because they are beyond our control. For all of your Mathhammer and Statistics, all your dice are belong to chaos.
But wait. We do control them. We roll them, blow on them and kiss them for luck. We chose to cast them from that height, to land on that spot. Maybe it is our fault. Maybe there is some zen of die casting that we are yet to discover? No. There isn’t. Yes, if you had a supercomputer for a brain, you probably could do as Bender does in Futurama and predict exactly what will show after the roll, but our brains can’t manage that. Besides, it’s ultimately the dice that make the game fun, even if they can also make it frustrating. Just accept it. It is beyond your control. I know it’s hard to admit, but there’s nothing you can do. Or is there…
A while ago, I read an article on the probability of dice rolling. It states that due to the rounded corners and the way the marks/dots are made on the cubes that GW sell, that you are statistically more likely to roll lower numbers when using their dice or those of similar shape and manufacture techniques. Further more, it suggests that casino dice are in fact, by law, required to have a completely even chance of rolling each side. Now before you rush off to buy incredibly expensive casino dice (they ain’t cheap), I suggest that you read some of the rebuttals to this article as well which point out some perceived flaws in the idea, and how scientific the testing techniques are is debatable. What’s more, did you note the word ‘statistically’ appeared earlier in this paragraph. Hmmmm…
I remain unconvinced by this argument that GW has somehow rigged the dice that they produce – even if they have done so inadvertently through penny-pinching (the corners shaved off the dice actually save them a fair bit of cash apparently). I’ve had as many games where my rolling has seen a higher proportion of high rolls, as have been low rolls in other games. And the arguments against this article do make it hard to take completely at face value. It all sounds like humans again desperately trying to influence chance.
But is there anything else we can do? Well, I certainly don’t recommend cheating. Trick dice, or ‘Character Builders’, are the one thing that I have seen that can turn a calm and quiet group of gamers into a torch-wielding mob of psychopaths (and justifiably so). I’ve actually witnessed this draw blood before so I don’t suggest or condone it. What’s more, no one will want to battle you ever again if you employ such ‘tactics’. And it’ll get you a lifetime ban from many tournaments. It simply isn’t worth it. Just ‘man up’ and accept your ones.
What about identifying your ‘lucky’ dice? There are some people who swear by using one set or another for certain tasks. I’ve heard “Oh my green ones always roll low so I use them for leaderships and psychic tests” and seen those same green dice roll double sixes straight away. This is, of course, horse-feathers. But, if it makes you happier, do it. It can’t hurt, but don’t expect magic (even if you’re playing Tzeentch).
The best thing that you can do is learn to deal with it. Be a good sport about it. There’s nothing wrong with venting a bit of frustration at your cubes, but don’t let it colour your game and don’t take it out on your opponent either. I know that this isn’t much of a conclusion – it’s more of a reminder that ultimately, we are in the hands of the dice Gods. Remember that chance, fate, luck, chaos or the will of God(s) (whatever you believe it to be) runs our games, and our lives. Even for generals on real battlefields, they have to cope with this element as well, so why shouldn’t you? Roll well, and don’t let the B€$%ards grind you down.
Do you have any experience with Casino dice? Have you ever witnessed trick dice being used? Or have you got any rituals or routines that you use to imbue your dice with positive energy and good luck? Stick your comments below!